Russia denies being behind a mysterious radiation leak making its way across Scandinavia

insider@insider.com (Bill Bostock)
LENINGRAD REGION, RUSSIA - AUGUST 22, 2019: An aerial view of the Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant in the town of Sosnovy Bor on the southern shore of the Gulf of Finland. Peter Kovalev/TASS (Photo by Peter Kovalev\TASS via Getty Images)
An view of the Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant, as seen in August 2019.

Peter Kovalev\TASS via Getty Images

  • Russia is refuting allegations that it is the source of a mysterious radiation cloud moving across Scandinavia.

  • Energy authorities in Sweden, Finland, and Norway observed a safe, but remarkable, increase of three radioactive isotopes in June.

  • The radiation comes "from the direction of Western Russia," the the Netherlands' National Institute for Public Health and the Environment said.

  • A spokesperson for Russia's nuclear energy body said the Kola and Leningrad plants, near the border with Finland, are working as normal.

  • Russia has a long and turbulent history with nuclear power, including regular attempts to cover up leaks and explosions.

  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Russia on Saturday denied allegations that it was behind a cloud of radiation seeping into southern Scandinavia.

Last week, energy watchdogs in Finland, Sweden, and Norway reported increased levels of the Ru-103, Cs-134, and Cs-137 radioisotopes in June, according to The Associated Press (AP).

The countries did not accuse Russia directly, but the Netherlands' National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (NIPHE) said on Friday that an analysis of the data showed that the radiation comes "from the direction of Western Russia."

The pattern "indicates damage to a fuel element in a nuclear power plant," the NIPHE said.

Kola leningrad plants nuclear
The locations of the Kola (top) and Leningrad (bottom) nuclear power plants in western Russia.

Google Maps

In response, a spokesperson for Rosenergoatom Concern, a branch of the centralized Russian nuclear energy company Rosatom, denied that there had been a leak.

Two nuclear powerplants in western Russia, the Leningrad and the Kola, are "working in normal regime," the spokesperson told state news agency TASS on Saturday.

"There have been no complaints about the equipment's work," the representative said. "Radiation levels at both NPPs and surrounding areas remained unchanged in June."

The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority said last Tuesday it couldn't pinpoint the exact source of the increased levels. 

The International Atomic Energy Agency said it is aware of the reports, and has contacted Russia for clarification.

Chernobyl sarcophagus
The Chernobyl sarcophagus in 1998.

Efrem Lukatsky/Reuters

Russia has a long and turbulent history with nuclear power, including regular attempts to cover up leaks and explosions.

It was accused of failing to disclose an accident at the Mayak nuclear facility in 2017 and of covering up an accident at a nuclear facility in Nyonoksa in August 2019.

Most famously, Russia attempted to cover up a devastating explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986. The 2019 HBO adaption of the event was derided in the Russian media. 

Russia has 36 nuclear power reactors in total, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

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